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July marks 10th anniversary of brutal murders

Time brings no relief for those directly affected by the crimes.

July 28, 2010|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

It's a decade this month since La Crescenta resident Frank Hoogenhuizen discovered the bodies of Blaine Talmo Jr., 14, of La Crescenta, and Christopher McCulloch, 13, of La Cañada Flintridge, but time has done nothing to ease the memory.

Hoogenhuizen and his wife, Grace, spent July 23, 2000, inside, avoiding the sweltering summer heat. At 8 p.m. he ventured into the yard, glanced over his back wall and saw two neighborhood boys lying on the playground blacktop at Valley View Elementary School, which abuts his property.

"I said, 'Hey guys, it's getting dark. Are you asleep?" Hoogenhuizen recalled.

What he saw after looking closer made him pause — there was a large rock pressed up against one of the boy's heads, which was badly discolored. The other boy was splayed under the playground slide. A 12-foot-long bench rested on top of him, one of the metal legs across his throat.

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Hoogenhuizen's 911 call would touch off a criminal investigation that at one point included more than half a dozen suspects. It also launched a media frenzy, with journalists canvassing the crime scene and the surrounding neighborhood.

And for the families of the victims, and the family of then-15-year-old Michael Demirdjian, who was eventually convicted of the crimes, it was the start of an unending nightmare filled with painful questions, some of which remain unanswered 10 years later.

Building, challenging a case

Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Barshop said it was a drug deal gone bad. Demirdjian was angry after fronting $660 for drugs but getting nothing in return from the alleged dealer, a 19-year-old named Adam Walker. Demirdjian plotted to get his money back by ambushing Walker, the prosecutor argued.

There were cell phone records, dozens of phone calls to another La Crescenta teen who suppossedly contributed part of the money, which Barshop said proved Demirdjian was making a drug deal. And the dispute culminated with the beating to death of McCulloch and Talmo, the latter of whom had allegedly introduced Demirdjian to Walker.

Demirdjian, who lived one block from the crime scene, told investigators that he saw the murders but did not participate. The three boys spent July 22, 2000, hanging out together at various locations around La Crescenta, he said. That evening they met up with Walker at Valley View Elementary, where they drank alcohol and smoked marijuana.

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